September 30, 2020

BY RYAN BOWMAN

Conestoga College’s recreation centre was filled to the rafters March 6, but it wasn’t for a pep rally.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the college hosted its annual job fair, drawing hundreds of resume-toting students eager for employment.

Craig Black, marketing and events co-ordinator for the college’s Co-operative Education and Career Services, said the purpose of the job fair was to help students connect with prospective employers in person as opposed to applying for jobs online.

“The primary goal of the college is to get students jobs upon graduation, so we’re hoping this can help that happen,” Black said, adding that the college offered job search workshops and resume clinics leading up to the fair.

“All of these companies make a big effort to come out and we’re bringing all of them right to the students’ doorstep, so we hope they take advantage of it and find jobs.”

A total of 85 companies participated in the four-hour event, each of which set up an information booth in the recreation centre. While some of the companies were specific to a particular industry, Black said the majority of them appealed to students from various disciplines.

“We try to cater to as many students as possible and get a breadth of employers here to cover as many programs as we can,” he said.

“There may be an insurance company here, but that doesn’t mean they’re only hiring insurance agents. They may be hiring for human resources or they may be hiring for other areas within their company.”

Richard Mino manages the Cambridge branch of Turkstra Lumber. He said his company was at the job fair in search of truck drivers, estimators and sales staff.

“Conestoga grads have a lot of skills that line up with what we’re looking for,” said Mino, adding that his branch currently employs a co-op student from the college.

Mino said job fairs are also a way for businesses to build company awareness.

“One of the reasons we came here is because even though we’re well known in other parts of the province, we’re kind of a lame duck around the Cambridge area. It’s a nice way to get our name out there for future employees, but also for future customers.”

Adam Rosenquist is in his third and final year of Conestoga’s computer programmer/analyst program. He said he dropped in on the job fair between classes in search of a co-op placement from May through August.

“I wouldn’t bank on it leading to anything,” he said, “but I’m remaining hopeful.”

While he has the option of graduating without his final co-op placement, Rosenquist said he would like some additional work experience before jumping into a full-time career and saw the fair as an opportunity to research some companies.

“You can’t tell a lot from job postings,” he said. “Sometimes companies will keep you in the dark about what you’ll actually be doing, so this is a way to actually meet them and see what they’re all about.”

Stacey Bartlett, a part-time instructor at Conestoga who is looking to supplement her income, said it was this personal interaction which drew her to the job fair.

“Face-to-face connections are really important,” she said. “You get the opportunity to make a great impression and you might get information you wouldn’t get online. It also lets you connect with specific people rather than just sending your resume out into the abyss.”

Bartlett, 33, said she is thinking about going back to school for a personal support worker (PSW) program but wanted to explore the job market before making the leap.

“I wanted to talk to a number of different health care-related organizations, find out about job prospects and get some advice about what kind of employees they’re looking for.”

Jess Dunn is a staffing and recruitment consultant with Premium HR Solutions, a staffing solutions company based in Guelph. She said her company was recruiting students for a number of jobs, ranging from general labour to executive positions.

“We’re primarily looking for staff for the companies we represent,” she said. “What we do is facilitate the preliminary interviews for our clients and use that information to help them find suitable employees.”

Dunn, who said her company has worked with Conestoga graduates in the past, advised students to be open to any and all possibilities.

“The market is a little bit slow these days, so even if you have something particular in mind or want to be in a certain industry, you should be open to other possibilities,” she said.

“And above all else, be dedicated to your job search and don’t give up.”